“No one ever gains votes in a national election by going through the presidential primaries,” Bill Clinton remarked ruefully in 1992. “They’re designed to chew you up and spit you out.”

That maxim has never been more apt than during this Republican primary season. As Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum do battle this Super Tuesday, March 6, they have dug themselves ever farther into the mire of a hard-line conservatism that is woefully out of step with America’s changing electorate. No matter who wins on Super Tuesday, the Republican Party will have a huge problem expanding beyond its base and forging a winning coalition.

Start with Hispanics — who accounted for 55 percent of population growth in the last decade — and the immigration issue. Romney, who is typically viewed as the “moderate” in the race, has been aggressively conservative in this area in an effort to outflank his more ideological opponents. He has promised to veto the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who came to the United States as minors with their parents, opposes in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, and raised a much-mocked scheme for their “self-deportation.”

More generally, he has consistently sneered at any sign of softness among his primary opponents on these issues, raising the specter of an increasing flood of illegal immigrants coddled by the law and provided with benefits they don’t deserve.

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